Cuba’s Los Van Van still waiting for U.S. visas; Conga Room gig tonight canceled
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Looks as though that temporary thaw in U.S.-Cuban cultural relations has reverted to the Big Chill, at least temporarily.
Instead of being en route to play the Conga Room in downtown L.A. tonight, at least three members of the seminal Cuban band Los Van Van, including founder-leader Juan Formell, are stuck in Havana.
The reason? According to the Conga Room’s owner, Brad Gluckstein, the U.S. State Department has declined to issue visas to Formell and two other band members.
In an e-mail to Pop & Hiss, Gluckstein said he had received word this morning that the visas had not been issued. The group’s planned show tonight has been canceled and Friday’s show is in jeopardy as well. Gluckstein said he is planning a Dec. 14 makeup date for tonight’s show, if the visa is issued later.
Los Van Van, which has outspokenly supported the Castro government for decades, has been as politically divisive across the Americas as it has been artistically influential. At a Miami concert in the late 1990s, Los Van Van fans were pelted with rocks and eggs by anti-Castro Cuban Americans. But in recent months, it had appeared that cultural exchanges between the two countries were accelerating.
Perhaps this will be quickly resolved. After all, the State Department has a lot bigger fish to fry this week.
Update: Tonight’s show has been canceled. Here’s the official statement from the Conga Room:
OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM THE CONGA ROOM
LOS VAN VAN PRESS CONFERENCE AND PERFORMANCE POSTPONED DUE TO VISA RESTRICTIONS
CONCERT AND PRESS CONFERENCE CANCELLED FOR TODAY, DECEMBER 2nd
DUE TO THE FAILURE OF THE STATE DEPARTMENT TO ISSUE THE LAST REMAINING 3 VISAS FOR THE BAND INCLUDING LEADER JUAN FORMELL, LOS VAN VAN WILL NOT BE ARRIVING TODAY INTO LOS ANGELES AS SCHEDULED FOR THE PRESS CONFERENCE OR CONCERT
TOMORROW NIGHT’S SHOW, DECEMBER 3RD, IS STILL SCHEDULED PENDING THE ISSUANCE OF THE THREE VISAS TODAY. LOS VAN VAN’S PERFORMANCE TODAY, DECEMBER 2nd IS POSTPONED UNTIL WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 14, 2010.
THE CONGA ROOM REMAINS DEEPLY COMMITTED TO PROVIDING THE BEST IN CULTURE AND MUSIC. ALL MEDIA WILL BE NOTIFIED AS MORE INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE.
-- Reed Johnson